Really Recommended Reading: Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?

Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon

Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?
by Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick
Paperback: 558 pages
Publisher: Concordia Publishing House (July 30, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0758605277


Explore letters, personal testimonies, and historical documents to discover who really wrote The Book of Mormon. Was it given to Joseph Smith by an angel or created from a work of fiction originally written by Solomon Spalding, a former Congregationalist minister? As the evidence unfolds, the authors of Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? The Spalding Enigma reveal a mystery that challenges the history of the Mormon church. Who was Solomon Spalding? Was his novel connected to Joseph Smith? Explore these questions and the conspiracy surrounding the Spalding manuscript and the origins of Mormonism.

except from the Introduction

In Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon? readers will become aware of a fascinating body of evidence that has continued to accumulate over the years and, despite efforts by pro-Mormon scholars to deny or dismiss it, has grown to such proportion that it now poses a significant challenge to history itself. At stake is nothing less than the Church’s most sacred text, The Book of Mormon. At issue is whether this long-revered book is actually a valuable, historical record of pre-Columbian North America or a deception of the first order, perpetrated upon the gullible and credulous by the very founder of the Church himself, Prophet Joseph Smith.

NoApologiesAllowed Minireview

Not Just a Mere Book — It’s Like an Encyclopedia!

I just put down the book this afternoon and thought long and hard about how to write a worthwhile review; something that would showcase how exceptional this book is and what a valuable reference it is. Not only is it an essential tool for we Christian apologists who engage Mormons, it should also be required reading for Mormons, too, and anyone researching 19th century American literature for that matter. It isn’t just a book — it’s like an encyclopedia of Who’s Who at the core of the birth of Mormonism and the history of its deceptive “Bible”, The Book of Mormon. And since I’ve concluded that there’s no way I could write a concise review and relay all the important details of this fascinating record, I hope to at least spark your interest in it enough to make you want to buy it (see below).

558 Pages AND Concise

Even at a length of 558 pages, Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon? is concise. Yes, “concise”. The authors didn’t waste space on unsubstantiated opinions or rhetoric or anything else that might be construed as “anti-Mormon”, a tactic that more and more Mormons are using in place of honest inquiry or considerate answers. (And even at the rare times when the authors do venture into speculation, they are clear at labeling it as such.) They went to the trouble of referencing all sorts of records of varying levels of obscurity and even legibility — tax records, census records, family histories and so on — to reconstruct the events leading up to the initial 1830 printing of the Book of Mormon and a few years thereafter. The amount of references is just incredible. I mean that. And let me be perfectly clear: I’ve never actually read a book with such an abundance of references. All summed up, there are around 130 pages of notes and references alone! And the sad fact is that in all likelihood, the majority of Mormons would relegate this incredible work of research to the “anti-Mormon” bin without once putting a crease in a page.

Detail After Detail After Detail After — You Get the Point

The sheer amount of detail that forms the content of this book is to the extent that it makes the authors seem obsessive-compulsive — and that’s a compliment! It’s rich and fully referenced.

To give you an idea of the amount of detail in this book, take a look at the section labeled “A Chronology of Elder Sidney Rigdon’s Activities: 1822 ~ 1830” which begins on page 334. There, you will find a month-by-month record over an eight-year span of time listing the whereabouts of the infamous Sidney Rigdon. (This is important because Mormons claim that Sidney Rigdon and Joseph Smith did not know each other until around 1830 or 1831.)


I’m really at a loss for a worthy enough compliment to give this book. It was a fascinating read that forced me to stay up many late nights because I just could not put it down. (And I mean that in the most literal sense.)

As I closed the final page of the appendix, I was actually sad that this literary journey that was the reading of this amazing piece of research had come to an end. The authors set out to demonstrate that, at the very least, The Book of Mormon is the mere product of a man. They not only succeeded, but, in my opinion, they went beyond that and gave ample evidence enough to show who that man might have been. It may very well have been Solomon Spalding and his manuscript, Manuscript Found. Sidney Rigdon had the opportunity to steal it, as he was accused of by Solomon Spalding himself before he died (!), and the twisted motive to do so. In Oliver Cowdery, he found a willing “scribe” who could copy out the text with Sidney’s “doctrines” input therein. And in Joseph Smith, he found a fall guy — or so he thought.

So very well done, Wayne, Howard, and Arthur!

Next up, I’ve finally gotten a replica of the 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon. I’m anxious to see this work of fiction in all its original “splendor”, since there are about 70,000 differences between it and the current version. How interesting that there on the first page is, “Joseph Smith, Author and Proprietor.” Telling indeed!

Get the book for HALF-OFF the cover price (just $9) at the Concordia Publishing House here:

Or at

Read a 14-page sample here:


13 thoughts on “Really Recommended Reading: Who Really Wrote The Book of Mormon?

  1. I used this book for the paper. I found it very useful, but after reading more literature I found I’d have to be careful about their central thesis about the book of Mormon being copied off a novel. Nevertheless, for its historical data alone, it is a worthy read/purchase.

    My favorite book on mormonism is “The New Mormon Challenge”:


    1. I’d be interested to know alternative theories for the origin of The Book of Mormon, too. As I mentioned in the review, I think the authors, at the very least, show convincingly that it is the product of man. Now the “which man” question is where things get complicated. :)

      Do you have any references or writings related to claims against it being copied off the Spalding manuscript, Manuscript Found? Is this argument brought up in the book?

      Thanks for the reference, by the way. I had never heard of this book…


    2. (JW, You already know all this, but let me throw it out there for the visitors.)

      I just wanted to add that there’s a lot of confusion in the Mormon apologist circle and maybe the Christian apologist circle related to the manuscript in question. The manuscript that is now in possession of the Mormons is Manuscript Story, not the infamous Manuscript Found, which Solomon Spalding accused Signey Rigdon of stealing. Mormons have historically maintained that the two are the same, calling their Manuscript Story the Manuscript Found in question. But historical inquiry has shown that there were at least 3 different manuscripts that Spalding wrote dealing with similar themes, namely ancient Israelites coming to the Americas: Manuscript Story: Conneaut Creek; Manuscript Story (unfinished); Manuscript Found.

      There are at least 2 potential fates of the manuscript, since it can’t be located now. 1) It’s hidden in the corner stone at the Mormon temple in Kirtland, Ohio. 2) Sidney Rigdon demanded that his wife burn all his papers upon his death, papers which may have included Manuscript Found.

      If you or anyone reading this has anything to add (with references), they’d be most appreciated!


  2. The Spaulding Theory is mentioned in the book I linked. On p. 386, it is said to have been dealt its deathblow. In the same breath, the author explains that it is more likely that the book stole ideas from “View of the Hebrews”.

    The reason the Spaulding Theory is dismissed is due to the evidence about Manuscript Found, which the author agrees is the same as Manuscript Story. I find the evidence for them being separate works a bit shaky too-kind of like hypothesizing “Q” in studies of the NT when we have no such document.

    So we may just disagree about the arguments. To be fair, I haven’t interacted with “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon” recently, and despite my stance, I think it is a simply fantastic book.

    I strongly encourage you pick up “The New Mormon Challenge”–it has top scholars across the board challenging Mormon Apologists. For example, my mentor, Stephen Parrish, has a chapter about how the Mormon concept of God is irrational.

    I think the best chapter (haven’t read the whole book yet, just selections) is possibly “Does the Book of Mormon Reflect an Ancient Near Eastern Background” by Thomas Finley. He argues that the Book of Mormon misuses idioms from Hebrew which demonstrates Joseph Smith was just trying to sound like an Ancient Near Easterner. It’s particularly interesting to me, having studied Hebrew, because of how it helps brush up on some of the idioms therein.

    Each chapter presents a new way to challenge Mormonism. I HIGHLY recommend it to you, because, noting your polemic against Mormonism, it would be a must read. I honestly think any Christian apologist should read the book, because of the nature of Mormonism–a challenge which uses the same language Christians do, but twists the meanings in ways which undermine our faith.

    Seriously, get the book. I can’t imagine you not loving it.


    1. Awesome. You have got me really interested in that book now. It’s on my buying list. I’ve also heard a lot about View of the Hebrews and thanks to Google, I just got a copy of the 1825 edition.

      If I might add, there are 2 interesting differences in the eye-witness accounts of the two manuscripts, Manuscript Story and Manuscript Found. The former was written on normal paper and was in the style of English then in use. The latter was written on recycled foolscap and was in the style of Elizabethan English.

      It’s something that I’d like to research more and the book you mention would definitely provide an alternative view on the origins of that mysterious novel.

      By the way, I just got a replica of the 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon. I’m going to try to finish it if I can keep myself awake long enough.

      Oh, one more thing. Have you ever heard lecture by Richard Packham called, “A Linguist Looks at The Book of Mormon?” If you get a second, check it out. Here it is:


      As an amateur linguist myself, I think he provides an awesome overview of the intertextual evidence that shows the obvious fraud.

      I appreciate that and do really value your input.

      Be blessed.


  3. Dear No Apologies Allowed,
    First of all, thanks for the great review! It is by far the best one I have read to date. To answer the criticisms about the 2 manuscript theory, if one is to be totally fair about it, one also must ask about the alleged plates from which Smith supposedly translated the Book of Mormon. Mormon apologists have always demanded to see Manuscript Found, saying that when we present it, they will then consider our claims. There is absolutely no validity in their statement because more than abundant evidence has been brought forth, going all the way back to the early 1830’s when the Book of Mormon made its appearance. More evidence surfaces in support of the Spalding authorship claims, only to be met with Mormon claims that the theory has been debunked, is dead, or any number of other equally false claims as to its demise. A major point that cannot be stressed enough is that we do not say that the entirety of the Book of Mormon is based on MS Found, only what would be called the “historical” portions of the book. It is obvious from all of the testimony of the witnesses that Spalding wrote a fanciful history, or as he called it, a “romance” of the American Indians, and it did not contain any Baptist or Campbellite doctrine like the Book of Mormon does.

    Regarding my claim that more evidence is coming to light, there is also a disturbing fact to relate. Many of the primary source records which we have copied over the years have either vanished altogether or have been vandalized or otherwise removed from public access. In going back to further research many of these old bits of evidence, we have discovered that many simply aren’t available anymore, obviously due to an attempt to keep the truth from ever coming out regarding the real author of the basis of the Book of Mormon. The information that seems to be especially targeted is anything related to the Spalding and McKinstry families, as well as information about many of Spalding’s closest friends. If, as most Mormon apologists and even many Christian apologists claim, there is nothing to the Spalding claims/it is a dead or debunked theory, why then is someone actively destroying or otherwise causing Spalding material to disappear? That would appear to be much ado about nothing, correct?

    On the other hand, as I said, more information is still coming forward, and equally important, new ways of further establishing the link between Spalding’s manuscript and the Book of Mormon are coming forth as well. One of the better pieces to be discovered is an article from the Hudson Ohio Observer, wherein the editor of the article interviews the people now known as the Conneaut witnesses, and they tell the editor the same things that they told to D. P. Hurlbut, which is very important, but what truly makes their statements invaluable is the fact that the article comes out several months BEFORE E. D. Howe’s Mormonism Unvailed. By the witnesses telling the editor the same things they told Hurlbut, they not only vindicate themselves from the standpoint of not being “led” by Hurlbut to say certain things that he wanted them to say, it also vindicates Hurlbut of any wrongdoing with regard to the witness testimonies, and the article predates Howe’s book by several months, making it the first real telling of the witness testimonies. Another article discusses a man named George Wilber, I believe, who lived in Bainbridge, Ohio and who knew Sidney Rigdon very well. In fact, they probably spoke on an almost daily basis. In the 1826-27 time period, Wilber sees Smith going to Rigdon’s house and Smith stays there for several days. then the two of them go away for an extended period of time, possibly to Pittsburgh, and then back to Rigdon’s house, after which Smith probably returned to his home. This is a very significant piece of evidence because it is yet another bit of information that puts Smith with Rigdon before 1830.

    Other research on Spalding includes wordprint studies and detailed statistical analysis of Book of Mormon authorship by Dr. Craig Criddle and associates at Stanford, and Tom Donofrio in Arizona, who has done very thorough research on Spalding plagiarizing other people in his manuscript, showing how the exact smae material that he stole from others went staight through into the Book of Mormon. By the way, one of the books which Spalding plagiarized was James Adair’s History of the American Indians. This may be even more telling in some ways than Criddle’s work because it shows specific material going from one author (Spalding) to another “author” (Smith) in the Book of Mormon. There is also the work of Vernal Holly, who pioneered work that shows that Spalding was talking indeed about the area of the Great Lakes in his material, not Mesoamerica, as the Mormons claim. Yes, it is quite possible that View of the Hebrews was used, but not nearly to the extent of the Spalding material. Also, the claim by Mormons and Smith-only Christians that there are not parallels between even Spalding’s Manuscript Story – Conneaut Creek and the Book of Mormon are patently false. It is wishful thinking on the part of these people, pure and simple, and has been more than adequately demonstrated especially by Tom Donofrio’s terrific research.

    Does this in any way exclude any other material from being used? Not in any way. Dr. Criddle and others have proven that fact. All that we claim is that Spalding’s material was indeed used in the Book of Mormon to the extent that it formed the historical basis for it.

    Thanks again for your very generous review, and if there is any way that I may be of service, let me know.

    Arthur Vanick,
    Co-author, “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? – The Spalding Enigma”


    1. Thanks, Arthur! I’m genuinely thrilled that you would take the time to leave a message here — a message that shows how thoroughly serious you guys take the topic. It’s all the more special for me since, even though you guys are writing from a non-Christian perspective, you have contributed a fantastic piece of research to the discussion — a work that focuses on authorship issues instead of the typical theological ones — and it was about the only history book that I read up to that point that I couldn’t put down. I was saddened by the grave Mormon apologists kept digging for it. Your revelation that a lot of the source documents have started to disappear is really disturbing. And this entire topic is a relevant one since there is a major contender for the White House who is a Mormon (Romney).

      Going to be contacting Bruce to get the 84-page update, too!

      If you’re willing, maybe we could do a text interview about the book sometime?

      Let me know!

      Many thanks to you,

      Joshua (NAA)


    2. Wow, thanks for stopping by and clarifying so many issues, Arthur. I’m glad I subscribed to comments on here! I’ll have to delve back into the book and get that update as well!


  4. In 2007, the authors produced an 84-page update to “Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon: the Spalding Enigma.” It is entitled “Manuscript Found and the Moroni Myth: the Importance of Being Honest” and was written in rebuttal to a critical analysis of the book by a Brigham Young University history professor. There is much new information in this paper, including a very convincing in-depth analysis of the “foolscap paper” issue mentioned above. Readers may obtain a copy by e-mail by sending a request for same to “” . There is also an index to the 2005 book available from the same source. For the record, I was an editor on this project and have the authors’ permission to distribute this information. BHS


  5. I too am a co author and researcher of the Spalding Enigma.
    The Mormon scholars have demanded an original copy of the Manuscript Found by Solomon Spalding saying we can’t trust those witnesses from Spalding’s township in Ohio.Fair enough.I say then you produce those very same gold plates(their ‘original’) from which the BOM was supposedly ‘translated’ and I will consider your claims! I don’t trust your eight witnesses either!

    Mormons complain that the eight witnesses to the Spalding Ms.Found all said pretty much the same thing thus making their testimonies invalid. They could not be valid as they knew Spalding and some were related. Also,they say we don’t have the originals,and it was D.P.Hurlbut that wrote their statements down. JP’s in those days did this all the time, but the witness swore to the content of the statement,and personally signed it.

    Speaking of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon one readily finds it is a single statement saying the same thing supposedly with their signatures attached. At least the eight Ohio witnesses each had their own statement which were not alike, but added details other witnesses didn’t include,for example the Henry Lake minute detailed account about Laban,etc.
    As to one author writing the Ohio docs -and there is no proof Hurlbut wrote all of them- I will say it was according to LDS history Oliver Cowdery that wrote the Eight witnesses (and the Three witnesses account which is identical as one single statement!) account! And we do not have the originals either! Martin Harris, a financial backer(he was to get a ‘percentage of sales’ which later was never realized), hence, an interested party who assented to the Three witness doc, of the BOM said, that ‘Jospeh had trouble getting the witnesses to sign the eight witness document!’ He said they had problems with actually seeing the gold plates,etc. Harris himself said he only saw them by the “eye of faith.”
    Hurlbut had no such issues as his eight Ohio witnesses readily assented to render an account.
    Mormons have said the Ohio witnesses ‘agree in their accounts’ so this is ‘suspicious’and shows ‘collusion.’ If they did not agree the Mormons would cry contradiction and fraud. Can’t please everyone as the old saying goes.

    And for the ‘relation’ argument there was only Solomon’s brother John and his wife Martha who was not related to Spalding that signed their own accounts.

    One wonders how there could be true impartiality as all of the LDS Eight witnesses are either Smiths or Whitmers -who were friends of the Smiths -and Oliver Cowdery whose wife was a Whitmer and Oliver himself was a second cousin to Joseph Smith!


    1. Some great points to consider there, Howard, especially the one about impartiality and most of the supposed 8 witnesses having either direct or indirect relation to Joseph Smith. As Mark Twain said in his “Roughing It”:

      And when I am far on the road to conviction and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too, and not only seen those plates, but hefted them, I am convinced. I couldn’t feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.


      1. Something else to consider when speaking about the witnesses and their viewing the plates, the majority of them said that they saw the plates with “spiritual” eyes. Also, most of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon either left the church or were ex-communicated. Contrast that with the Conneaut witnesses who claimed that Solomon Spalding’s Manuscript Found ws used by Smith et al to create the Book of Mormon. Mormon critics make the erroneous claim that the person who interviewed them somehow coached them in their testimony. In 1834, I believe, shortly after D. P. Hurlbut (the man who interviewed the witnesses) was excommunicated, an article appeared in a paper called the Hudson Ohio Observer concerning Mormonism and was entitled “Mormonism No. 4”. After a brief introduction to Mormonism, the editor of the article then talks about the Spalding connection and in particular, the Conneaut witnesses and how they knew that Spalding’s manuscript had been used to create the Book of Mormon. The witnesses tell the newspaper editor the same things that they told Hurlbut. Why is this so important? Because first of all they had a perfect opportunity to say whatever they wished to the editor, yet they told the editor the same things that they told Hurlbut, thus proving that they weren’t coached by Hurlbut and at the same time that their memories were very solid with regard to Spalding’s manuscript. Something else to consider is that this article came out several months before Howe’s Book on the subject, making it the first time that the witnesses’ statements were being made public.


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